Utahns gather to send donations to Tonga

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SALT LAKE CITY — Over the last 10 days, donations from people all over northern Utah have flooded in to help those affected by the volcanic eruption and tsunami in Tonga.

A local nonprofit called Honor365 launched "Operation Tonga" to gather emergency supplies to ship to the Polynesian nation. Utahns with loved ones living in the wake of destruction got a glimpse at all of the donations before they were shipped off.

"To see this, all the amount of donations that have been brought in by the people of Utah, is overwhelming. I'm so grateful," said Nakola Makoni.

For Makoni, the donations hit home. Many of his loved ones still live in Tonga.

Communication was completely cut off after the massive eruption of an underwater volcano sent tsunami waves crashing over Tonga. It wasn't until Saturday that Makoni finally got word his brother is OK.

"We haven't been able to hear from him for the past two weeks, and just knowing that my brother is fine pushed me even harder to get these supplies to my brothers and sisters back home," Makoni said.

About 35,000 pounds of food and water, as well as 15 pallets of various goods — like diapers, backpacks, hygiene and first aid kits — may seem like simple supplies, but Makoni says families are walking long distance just for clean water. So these donations will make a big difference.

Organizers with Honor365 set up four drop off locations in northern Utah, and in 10 days, donations flooded in. Volunteers were expecting half of the donations.

"When I see these donations from people from all colors and faiths, it brings back the humanity in all of us. This one destruction brought us all together, so I hope that we can continue a world full of humanity," Makoni said.

He knows the next time he sees his home, there will be a lot of destruction and a lot of change.

"The surroundings will be different, but my family — their resilience, the love we have for each other, that will always remain the same," Makoni said.

If you'd like to help, Honor365 is still looking for donations. You can find more at the nonprofit's website.


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Kiersten Nuñez


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